14 December 2008

The Selection Process

Tochigi midfielder Fukasawa Koji may be under contract through February, but he now is looking at other options as that club can not afford to keep him. As previously mentioned through my advice and invitation he stayed with me for a couple of nights as he would attempt to get noticed by this city's pro team. He wouldn't be alone though, of course.

The club had to deal with a field full of hopefuls from all ranges of Japanese soccer. Many uniforms were represented... Assume the pro teams were cut players:

-JEF United Chiba
-Jubilo Iwata
-Thespa Kusatsu
-FC Gifu
-Shonan Bellmare
-Yokohama FC
-Tochigi SC

And the others are hoping for a taste as a professional:

-Yokohama Sports and Culture Club
-(North) Korea University
-FC Korea
-Ryutsu Keizai University
-Mito First High School
-and a good 20 or so full amateurs with no affiliation

There were so many trialists that all were organized into 10 full squads and the tryout could only encompass exhibition matches between them. Each player's tryout would be a mere 25 minute match in which to try to impress. From these five short exhibition matches, the team staff would choose 2 keepers, 6 defenders, 4 defensive midfielders, 4 offensive midfielders, and 4 forwards to get a closer look the next day. Only 22 players... one-fifth of the total, and much tougher for underrepresented positions.

Fukasawa would play in the last trial of the morning and with the time until then, I drove him around the city to show him the lifestyle. While others were taking an early train and walking from the station, he could have a comfortable sleep and ride to the ground. While others sat in the grass or concrete in cold overcast for hours to play a quick match, he could see the sites and casually relax in a heated environment. Throughout the weekend, I'd like to think that this was somewhat of a help.

When it came time, we went back to the field and he would prepare to take his usual left side midfielder position. I reiterated my advice on what Mito was looking for... Hard pressing, intercepting passes, solid through passing, and taking smart shots when possible. He did just that, and stood out well in the group in all areas despite the understandably selfish play by all on the pitch. He came off the field dejected, sure that his chance went by and that he'd have to tour the country looking for a club to take him.

When the 22 names were announced, Fukasawa was shocked to hear that he was called. I wasn't.

The rest of the day, Fukasawa wanted to take it easy, so I took him to Mito's massive shopping center, where at a buffet I was amazed how someone almost half my size could eat almost twice as much. He also wanted to see some aquatic animals, so I took him to Pet Island Tomony which has Japan's largest variety of pet fish, and then to the lake just by my home where the swans and ducks happily mingle with the people.

That evening he went to the public baths while I, out of courtesy to those lucky enough to have proper vision, stayed home to watch a rerun of the Iwata-Sendai match.

After a good nine hours of sleep, I drove him back to the ground where this time the two newly formed trial teams would have 2 35 minute matches in cold drizzling rain. The first one had Fukasawa play as a defender, which he had never done before. He did well, but honestly kept midfielder form and didn't take on the defender responsibilities so well. The second had him in his typical place, and he played solidly. There were some flashier players who had more ball time but I'm confident that the coaches could see his worth.

From then, he came back to my home to pack up and drive back to an Utsunomiya meeting. On the way, a short distance from my home, a group of black and white swans crossed the road. I stopped the car and he took some pictures and said goodbye to them.

The team might take a few players from the tryout, or ten, or none. There's no way to know until each player is contacted individually. He promised to let me know as soon as he hears.

Apparently he felt compelled to write about the experience where he was far too kind in talking about me:

Koji Fukasawa in Mito


richy said...

Yeah Vendo, very interesting indeed. I'm hoping that he gets in after reading what you wrote.

BTW Any ideas on the Gifu players who came and their fates??
With 16 players leaving (most due to lack of finances) we are all worried about the fates of our players from Gifu. A few of the players were understandably devastated to be dropped because they were deemed to be too expensive and they were happy in Gifu.

With lots of clubs facing financial difficulty lately it must be a worrying time for many of these players without contracts.

richy said...

...and on a second note congratulations on finishing above us this year!

Although towards the end of the season you guys tailed off, you really showed some growth during that midseason.

At the end although you're probably a little disapointed you must be relieved that you at least finished above the new boys Gifu and Kumamoto!! I'll be in your shoes next year!!

And BTW don't worry about Gifu next year. You will probably be playing us at Nagaragawa twice, so that means two wins for you!!lol

Vendo Thefastlane said...

The Gifu players seemed very young and their shorts had numbers in the 30s. I'm pretty sure one had #37.

Furtho said...

This is great writing and a fascinating story, Vendo. I hope Hollyhock know what a good fan they have in you!

Furtho said...

Can't believe it's taking so long to get the result!

Vendo, could you tell us something about J2's Rookie of the Year, Arata?

Vendo Thefastlane said...

Actually it's because of Arata that Fukasawa could doespecially well. Arata often gets free at the front and has an itchy trigger finger. If he gets the ball, he will shoot, and if one on one with the keeper, he'll probably score. Fukasawa is very adept at keeping the ball, dribbling forward, and passing through the opponents.

Arata probably won the newcomer award award just by being visible, and the rookie with the highest goal count. Even other newcomers on Mito's squad, like Nakamura in defense and Kikuoka and Park in the midfield could easily be considered as important to the team.

What else... He drives a smallish Toyota SUV, he relates well with other players, and when he is happy he can act very silly.

Mike Tuckerman said...

Absolutely enthralling read, Vendo.

Hope Fukasawa-san sorts his future out soon.

Furtho said...

Thanks for that, Vendo - can't beat the inside info you're able to provide.

Two more questions. One, what do you think about Biju being released? And two, something that has puzzled me: do you know if any of the Mito players are on part-time contracts and do other things to top up their income? Or are they all fully pro?

Vendo Thefastlane said...

Biju was a great guy and always polite and appreciative, and tried really hard, but he was getting up in years and lost some of the skills. Notably he was getting slow, and while a defensive player he couldn't keep up there. He tried to cover by taking big shots but this was the year he started to be passed by the younger players in almost all areas. He'll likely go back to Hokkaido to be with his wife, unless another team wants to give him a shot. You might see him in a Sapporo or Morioka based semi-pro team next year... I doubt Consadole wants him back at an A-contract price.

Each team is required to have a list of all players and official info including picture and contract status in the match commissioner's room during the match. When I was arranging things in the room I'd look through the players on the visiting team just so I could match a name with a face during the game. Every team has a full roster of fully pro players, more than the required number, with a few teams having amateur status players. Mito is no exception, and all players have had pro contracts except for officially retired Akiba (who just re-retired) who was on the roster as an amateur.

Furtho said...

Vendo, do you know (or are you able to say) if Koji has attended / has plans to attend tryouts at any other clubs?

Vendo Thefastlane said...

Unfortunately I haven't heard anything from him in a few days so I'm not sure. He did go to J. League hopefuls Matsumoto Yamaga and Nagano but were very unimpressed with those clubs and refused to be considered.

He's under contract through February and is required to do work for the club until then and any tryouts etc. that conflict can't be attended. It's not a very kind situation.

Vendo Thefastlane said...

Still no news in the new year. Mito keeps adding players and now it seems anyone brought in will replace those that can't get an extension worked out. Any left side players not continuing may be replaced by Fukasawa, but it's just a waiting game at the moment.

Furtho said...

Thanks for the update, Vendo. Do you know if Koji tried out for any other teams after has abortive trip to Nagano?

Furtho said...

The publication of Mito's squad list would seem to indicate that Koji didn't get in, I guess, Vendo.

Vendo Thefastlane said...

Chu-Ho Park plays his position and hasn't been confirmed to return, and currently a few more players have been released than brought up. No tryout players have been contacted; they will be once very final decisions are made.

It doesn't look good though.

Furtho said...

Koji's site makes reference to going to Aichi, I notice, Vendo. A trial with FC Kariya, perhaps?

Vendo Thefastlane said...

Yeah. Mito has either zero or one midfielder spots left with Park going to Kashima.

That does mean some transfer of money across the prefecture but it's not clear if that will be used to acquire a player to fill Park's position. It also happens to be Fukasawa's position but no news yet.

Even if he ends up elsewhere, that space being open is enough for me to keep hinting in the staffs' ears that he would be good, should a mid-season acquisition be needed.

Vendo Thefastlane said...

I just got a mail. It seems that he's taken a place at Fukushima United FC, of the Tohoku regional league. They are contenders for JFL promotion, but he was very diplomatic in expressing disappointment in going to a lower league.

Fukushima is famous for being the first non-national team to apply for J. League association... to then be turned down. Still, he was able to help Tochigi make it to the pro ranks in two years, and Fukushima could do the same. The team also has strong ties with Mito, where most former pro players have come from and the former club of player/coach Yu Tokisaki. If he can impress, he'll stay in Mito's sights.

In a way, he's lucky to find a club to keep playing... Of the 13 players cut by Tochigi only 3 now have a club for 2009... none pro.